NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 14 – President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta has congratulated the Kenyan Team that finished second at the IAAF World Championships in London, a Championship that ended on Sunday night.
Kenya finished a place lower than their performance from two years back in Beijing, China where they came off top of the world with 16 medals; seven gold, six silver and three bronze. In London Kenya was second to the USA having managed 11 medals; five gold, four silver and two bronze.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our fantastic team in London for the great pride and joy they have given to millions of Kenyans coming second in the World. The races yesterday were fantastic, congratulations Team Kenya,” Kenyatta said in an address to the nation on Monday afternoon outside Harambee House, in his first public appearance since winning last week’s election.
The team is expected to return to the country on Tuesday morning.
Assistant coach Bernard Ouma who is a specialized middle distance coach expressed his delight at the performance of the team and attributed it to a concerted effort of team work.
“It was a good performance from the team and we are happy with our achievements from London,” Team Kenya assistant coach Bernard Ouma told Capital Sports in a brief response from the British capital.
Ouma’s own athlete, Elijah Manangoi wound up Kenya’s campaign in emphatic fashion, bringing home the gold medal in the 15000m succeeding his teammate Asbel Kiprop who has won it over the last three editions of the championship.
Hellen Obiri had also made sure Kenya’s national anthem would wow the fully sold out Olympic Stadium in London, blazing away Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana to the 5000m gold medal.
Other gold medalists came from Faith Kipyegon in the 1500m, Conseslus Kipruto in the 3,000m steeplechase and Geoffrey Kirui in the men’s marathon.
Timothy Cheruiyot (1500m) and Edna Kiplagat (marathon) won silver medals for Kenya while Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase), Kipyegon Bett (800m), Paul Tanui and Agnes Tirop (10,000m) won silver.
With two of the defending champions from Beijing two years ago missing out on the London showpiece due to injury, there was always going to be a challenge to replicate that performance that united a nation and saw Kenya stand tall amongst its peers.
David Rudisha, the 800m defending champion and world record holder pulled out of the team just a day before he was scheduled to travel due to a quad muscle injury picked up during training. His absence put more stir in the two-lap race team that was already shrouded in controversy.
Despite coming in third at the trials and earning an automatic slot into the team, United States based athlete Michael Saruni was axed from the team in favor of Diamond League winner Ferguson Rotich.
Efforts to reinstate him into the team after Rudisha pulled out were successful, but he failed to compete in London due to a visa hitch.
Of the three who competed in London, only youngster Kipyegon Bett managed to reach the final where he fought off stiff competition to bag the bronze medal. The biggest disappointment was however with Emmanuel Korir.
The youngster making his debut in the world stage went into the championship with the world leading time of 1:43.10, but he could not make it past the semi-finals where he disappointingly finished 4th. Compatriot Rotich viewed by Athletics Kenya as topping in form over Saruni finished third in his heat.
But it was a big win for the 19-year old Bett who was also making his debut as he went on to claim a first ever senior medal.
London brought forth a worrying trend for Kenya in both the men and women’s steeplechase. United States won more medals in what is considered Kenya’s signature event. Emily Coburn led a 1-2 finish for the USA in the women’s event while Evan Jagger won bronze, a first time ever for the Americans.
Conseslus Kipruto though ensured Kenya kept its tradition of winning the water and barrier race with Olympic champion Hyvin Kiyeng only managing a bronze in the women’s race.
Kenya has seemingly gone to slumber while most of the other countries, especially European nations have gone back to the drawing board and re-strategized, investing in better training and tactics to match the Kenyans.
If anything is to go by from the London sojourn, then Kenyan coaches have all to worry about ahead of next year’s commonwealth game and the next World Championships in Doha, Qatar in 2019.
-Men mismatch in 10,000m and 5,000m
Mo Farah has retired from track racing and it might spell some good luck for Kenyans still trying to make glory in both long distance races as witnessed in the world championships.
The Kenyan trio of two-time World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui tried to employ a tact against the Briton in the 10,000m race, but it flopped right on their faces with only Tanui coming home with a medal.
It was worse in the 5,000m when Kenya only had one representative in the final; Cyrus Rutto. More embarrassing was that a Kenyan, Davis Kiplang’at was lapped by the leading group in the first heat. The unusual scenario attracted even the attention of foreign press.
Kenya has struggled to fight down Farah and the Ethiopians in the two races and the coaches led by the big man Julius Kirwa have their work cut out heading back home.
-Yego out injured
It wasn’t twice lucky for 2015 World Champion Julius Yego in the javelin final. The ‘YouTube Man’ managed only three throws out of the possible six. The first one being a ‘no-throw’, Yego thrust the javelin to 76.29 in the second attempt and 75.31 in the second. He couldn’t proceed for the final three.
“Disappointing to get a recur of groin partial tear again same as it was in Rio in the warm up area! But it’s sport; things do happen not the way we want, sorry for my fans will get well soon,” Yego posted on his Facebook page.
In Rio at least, he managed to get a silver medal after two attempts. The best of 76.29 was a far cry from his 97.72 African Record he set two years back in Beijing.
Hellen Obiri was one of the standout performers from London. The 28-year old showed she is good enough to replace multiple champion Vivian Cheruiyot when she blazed apart defending champion Almaz Ayana in the final of the 5,000m, on a season she had vowed to finally win an outdoor title.
She headed to London with the world leading time in the 12-and-a-half lap race and she did not disappoint, sticking by Ayana from the moment she pulled away from the rest of the field.
Obiri’s devastating final kick with almost 300 metres to go attracted huge cheers and applause and the ecstasy in which she crossed the line told half the story of a woman determined to make her own mark as much as possible.
The 2012 3,000m World Indoor champion picked silver in the same race in the Rio Olympics last year and the world championship title tag was the only missing feather from her decorated cap.
-Kipyegon shows her colors
Whether and Olympic champion can comfortably replicate the same form at the worlds has always been a pertinent question. Faith Kipyegon gave a resounding answer; YES!
Kipyegon, 23, showed a clean pair of heels and unmatched determination to win the 1500m gold, just over a year after winning the Olympic title in Rio. Against a tough surging group that included 800m champion Caster Semenya and American Jenifer Simpson, Kipyegon showed she was boss.
It was also an upgrade of the silver medal from two years back in Beijing and the biggest trademark of that race was the final kick. Throughout training prior to the championship, Kipyegon had concentrated on speed-work, blazing sub-55 marks in the 400m almost on daily basis.
Her focus now is on defending her commonwealth crown next year in Gold Coast, Australia.
In the corresponding men’s race, Elijah Manangoi read from the same script. But what was more evident from the race was the team-spirit Kenya’s representatives had all through the race from the preliminaries to the final.
In the preliminaries, Manangoi ran with Asbel Kiprop in both the heats and the semis and they could always be seen signaling each other to ensure they both qualified.
In the final, it was more evident. The Kenyan group of three, Manangoi, his training partner Timothy Cheruiyot and Kiprop hurdled together, in prayer and final sharpening of team tactics. With a lap to go, the three were hurdled together at the front again and from there, it was everyone by himself.
Manangoi, pushed by the pain of missing out on the Olympic final in Rio due to injury was out to prove his doubters wrong and he did so in emphatic fashion. His training partner at the Rongai Athletics Club Cheruiyot picked silver.
Kiprop could only jog to ninth after coming short of sprint power at the home straight and it was duly time to say goodbye for the three-time champion as he now eyes to switch to the 5,000m, possibly at the Commonwealth Games next year.